How to Homeschool in California: 3 Questions to Ask

Nearly 3.5% of students nationwide are homeschooled.  Now, I’m as much of a lover of statistics as any educator.  But seriously, what does that figure tell us about how these parents are teaching their students?  There are a ton of options available, but no clear-cut guide to figuring out what will work best for your family.  Luckily for you, I’ve designed this guide to figuring out the how behind that 3.5%.  The answers to these three questions will help you to decide how to implement your passion for home education in a way that works for your student.


How to Homeschool: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide


How to Homeschool: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide. The answers to these three questions will help you to decide how to implement your passion for home education in a way that works for your student.

First Question: What Options Do I Have For Homeschooling?

What’s great about California is the state is super flexible when it comes to our options.  There are three general categories of enrollment: private homeschooling, charter participation, and online programs.


Private Homeschooling

You can establish your own private school.  This is done through filing a private school affidavit each October.  A form on the California Department of Education website walks you through the process.  Establishing your own private school gives you ultimate educational freedom.  The curriculum, school calendar, grades, and field trips are all up to you.  The only oversight is a recommended portfolio.  This way, you have documentation of each child’s progress should it be asked for by the state.  Technically, the state can request to see your school records (including attendance).  However, I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to show the goods.

Private homeschooling is required to fulfill state standards.  What’s great is that as the administrator of the school, you can choose how it’s done. It’s also your responsibility to produce grades and transcripts.  This includes creating a high school diploma for graduating students.  But, in some cases, colleges might not accept homeschool diplomas as proof of graduation.  For example, the UC system has a more involved application process for homeschooled students that received a non-public school district diploma.  The simplest way around this technicality is to take the admissions test.  This can be simpler since it avoids in depth questioning and the burden of proof.

For the CSU system, admission requirements aren’t as clear cut, according to the Admission Handbook for 2016-2017.  The guide states that privately homeschooled students’ individual applications may be reviewed to ensure that they meet admission requirements.  This sounds a little scary!  But with consistent record keeping through the high school years, all subjects should be covered well enough to meet course requirements.

Homeschooling Through a Charter

The second option for homeschool in California is through enrollment in a charter program.  There are both private and public charter schools.  Each has its own requirements for admission.  Charters are unique in that they offer guidance and curriculum planning, but the parent educator is primarily responsible for record keeping and daily teaching.  We enrolled in a charter program that serves families throughout California.  There are endless options depending on your location and campus accessibility.

Many charters offer funding for curriculum and supplementary activities.  The availability of funds, as well as the specific amount, will vary with each program.  Charters also tend to offer on campus classes, for students who are interested.  A social aspect is built in, which is not guaranteed with private homeschooling.  That’s not to say that guided extracurricular activities are required for socialization, though.  Still, charters often provide a sense of community in addition to support in teaching core subjects.  In our area, Visions in Education is convenient, since they have a campus local to us.  Other local charters include the association of Pacific Charters, which has campuses throughout the Sacramento and Stockton areas.

Charters will supply guidelines for state standards and curriculum suggestions or requirements.  They mostly function on their own school calendar with attendance and grading required.  However, I know a number of families that homeschool with charters and practically unschool their kids, with their teacher’s approval.  I have yet to encounter this opportunity, although our certified teacher is fairly hands off as well.  Veteran homeschool parents will tell you, your satisfaction with any one program will depend heavily on the teacher that you’re assigned to.  For us, that hasn’t been an issue thus far.

Online Schooling

The final option in California is online schooling.  Both free and paid programs exist, though I haven’t encountered an option that offers any funding or extracurricular support.  Connections Academy is one prominently featured option in a basic search.  Be warned that if you request their free program guide, they will continue to proffer services until you unsubscribe or enroll.  K12 is another program I frequently see advertised on local cable.  It also claims to be fee-free, and offers community based events and field trips as well.  Time 4 Learning is yet another option commonly discussed in homeschooling forums.  It apparently runs at a standard monthly cost of $25, though discounts seem to be offered frequently.


Second Question: How Much Guidance Do I Want/Need?


New to Homeschooling versus Self Sufficient Student

Different programs over varying levels of oversight (and regulation).  Families new to homeschooling might consider a program with an abundance of support and oversight.  This can aid in the transition from public to home education.  You might be testing the waters with a kindergarten student, and are unsure what path to take.  Charter and online programs often have guidelines for how and what to study.  They can offer curriculum suggestions or require adherence to specific programs.  If you’re unsure what your student’s strengths are, it can be worth exploring various curriculum to figure out what speaks to him or her.  In our charter, curriculum samples are available at the school’s main campus.  I’m able to peruse resources before ordering any materials, which can be quite helpful in finding the right fit.

Considerations for Students With Special Needs

For students with special educational needs, it can be a hassle to find private services (and pay out of pocket) for diagnostics or therapy.  Charter programs that function within public school districts have those resources readily available.  Most charters will work closely with you to establish, or integrate, an IEP.  Homeschooling already caters to individual learning needs, so students with special needs have extensive opportunities for progress and adaptation.

Scheduling and Costs

If you like to keep a flexible schedule and teach outside typical school days and hours, you’d do well to avoid charters and online programs.  Privately schooling lets you dictate when, where, and how subjects are covered.  Charters and even online programs require specific attendance.  This can be pesky if you’d rather be on the road when everyone else is not!  Just note, registration is still required if you decide to privately homeschool (or unschool), since California maintains that education is a state matter.

Then there’s the issue of finances.  Curriculum, should you choose to go all in, can be horribly expensive.  Our charter program offers funding for specific educational purposes (textbooks, art supplies, designated field trips), for a total of $1800 per school year.  This allows us to take advantage of programs and services I didn’t even know about before!  Pacific Charters offers $2500 per school year with their Rio Valley campus, though other campuses don’t appear to list specific amounts.

That said, homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.   I am, however, of the mindset that if public schools receive funds for my child’s enrollment, he should he receive a cut of the money too.  Obviously, the funds are only dispersed for specified educational supplies and events.

A Sense of Community (and Supervision)

If you’re like me, and are painfully antisocial when it comes to meeting other parents, a built-in social option could be beneficial.  Charters, as well as some online schooling options, frequently offer get-togethers and on-campus classes for students.  My son’s program, for example, offers classes in our area so kids can learn alongside one another.  They also host a kickoff park day each school year so families can socialize.  Plus, I have access to my son’s certified teacher throughout the school year.  Our program has monthly teacher meetings, where we do a progress check and she answers any questions I have.  I enjoy having a sense of connection to the school through our teacher.  Plus she gives great advice on learning strategies for my hands-on kiddo.


Third Question: How Do My Kids Learn Best?


I’ve always been a bookworm (thanks Mom & Dad!).  I much preferred solo desk work to joining groups and engaging physically.  As a homeschooling parent and lover of life learning, I recognize that not every student learns best by cracking open a textbook.  Particularly wiggly six year olds like mine.

My favorite thing about homeschooling is the level of customization for each student’s learning style.  For the bookworm (or tech oriented) kids, online programs can be a simple way to complete coursework quickly and move on to other interests.  There isn’t excess classroom time spent going over details that might be boring to these students. Working pace is set by each student, and he or she can take as much time, or as little, as necessary.

Kids that enjoy a hands-on experience will love manipulative tools, outdoor exploration, and messy science experiments.  Both private homeschooling and charter programs can be beneficial for these students. Sitting still isn’t a requirement unless attending a specific on campus class.  Throughout our homeschool day, we have the luxury of taking breaks and reworking subjects to suit our visual learner’s needs.  He definitely doesn’t have to sit at a desk all day, and my ability to teach isn’t affected by the location of our learning.

For kids like first grade me, working in groups could be a source of stress.  For other kids, working alone might by abysmally boring.  With private homeschool and charters, it’s up to the parent’s discretion how often kids work in groups (or not).


Now What?

Now that we’ve clearly covered how to homeschool, are you proud to be part of that 3.5% that do?

I know there’s a lot to consider about homeschool.  It can sometimes feel like a part time (or full time!) job.  What’s so awesome about homeschool in general, is the ability to switch it up.  If schooling through a charter doesn’t work out for us, there’s always the private option.  If my kids want to get all their work done online when they’re in high school, we’ll go that route.

I know a dad who has three homeschooled kids, and uses a different program and teaching format for each. The beauty of schooling at home is we get to make those choices based on our children's best interests. Click To Tweet

That might change next week, next year, or ten years from now.  What I love about the process is it involves learning alongside my kids.  We’re on this journey together, so I’m more than just their tour guide!


How to Homeschool in California: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide


Just to be clear, I’m not affiliated with any of the above recommended resources or programs 🙂

3 Ways to Look Like a Professional (Even If You Have No Clue What You’re Doing)

We all have to start somewhere!  Although you might be new to being a professional biz personality, that doesn’t mean you have to look green.  Maybe you’re not a people person or aren’t sure how to handle your first day on the job.  If you’re lost and need direction on keeping up appearances while managing your fledgling business, I’ve got you covered.  Here are three tricks I’ve learned to help you look like a professional, even when you have no clue what you’re doing.


3 Ways to Look Like a Professional… Even If You Have No Clue What You’re Doing


3 Ways to Look Like a Professional (Even If You Have No Clue What You're Doing)- WordsbyErynn


Dress to impress (online)

Dress for the job you want, not the one you have, right?  We’ve heard the tired line of advice about faking it ’til you make it, but did you know there are statistics to back up the fact that your physical attributes and even professional attitude can impact your career?

Forbes has an entire article about executive presence, and reported that your career advancement is directly connected with how confident and authoritative you appear- and this presence counts for about a fourth of your promotional potential.  While this data was gleaned from an executive boardroom type environment, the bottom line is the same.  You literally have to fake it ’til you make it (and keep ironing those dress pants).  Being meek and withdrawn won’t win you any accolades, since the higher ups are most impressed by forward thinking and an air of self importance.  Physical appearance plays a part, but it’s a small component of the overall package that is uber professional and authoritative you.

But what if your business doesn’t happen in a boardroom or office building with endless rows of cubicles and highly sought after corner offices?

In the digital business world, transactions take place over email, and “face to face” can often just mean via Skype.  In this setting, professional dress and the ability to dominate the company meeting with brilliant biz ideas can only take you so far.  If your business involves regular, digital face time with clients, you already know wearing a tie or ironed shirt will help your image.

For the rest of us that seem to only exist in the cyberspace between our laptop screens and our clients’, this 3 step non-physical-appearance guide translates that physical executive presence into actionable online business communication.  After all, the client on the other end of your electronic communication won’t have any clue what you look like, so there’s no banking on good looks to float you through.


1. Don’t say, “I don’t know…”


This is a valuable yet straightforward gem I learned from years in customer service.  For a concept so simple, it seemed difficult for many a retail employee to digest.  Bottom line: if I don’t know the answer to your question, it’s my job to find it.  Whether I’m the janitor or the CEO, it’s in my job description to be helpful.  Particularly in my own business, because, after all, I should know everything about it.


The truth is, we all forget details on occasion (usually the worst occasions).  Another truth is, there’s no excuse for not keeping track of the ins and outs of your business.  If a client doesn’t recall the amount you quoted them on a project, is it really in your best interest to answer with “I don’t know, I emailed you the quote weeks ago”?

Nope, definitely not.  It’s worth the ten minutes of outbox searching (or better yet, taking notes in the first place- hello Google sheets!) to find the exact figure.  But as a conscientious business owner, you wouldn’t dream of being outright rude or unhelpful to a client.  At least, I hope you wouldn’t.

But, there are other ways this lackadaisical approach to information sharing could hurt your business.  If a client asks for a quote on a new project and you’ve never billed for that type of work before, there’s no reason you have to flounder helplessly.  Hopping online can help you figure out how to structure project proposals- and to bill for the work you’re doing- without letting the client know you were desperately skimming Pinterest for invoicing tips.

There were times in my early days of freelancing when I’d head to search engines for advice on any number of small biz topics.  Just when I was praying for expert advice on filing freelance taxes, up came a result perfectly suited to that conundrum.  There’s no one comprehensive guide to making it all work, as a freelancer or any business owner.  However, there is no lack of super helpful information that can be found and stored in your savvy biz owner information receptacle.  And by that, I obviously mean your secret Pinterest board.


2. Don’t say, “I think…”


You’re the expert.

Your opinions are not opinions, they’re facts.


You're the expert. Your opinions are not opinions, they're facts. Click To Tweet


If you’re giving advice to a client, or making suggestions for a project, think about why you’re tempted to preface a comment with “I think.”

Is it because you’re not sure about the proposition?  Are you hesitant to put yourself out there for fear of failure?  If these worries are holding you back, you likely shouldn’t be giving that particular piece of advice at all.  If what you’re saying to a client isn’t something you’d want plastered on a billboard, or across Twitter, it’s probably best left unsaid.

On the other hand, if you’re saying “I think” because you’re trying to be friendly and gentle with your client…

Knock it off.

You’re the expert for a reason.  Clients come to you and trust you for that reason.  You know why formula X Y Z works.  Just because you’re scared to offend a client doesn’t mean they don’t need the help that you’re poised to offer.  A key strategy is to offer advice in the form of “this is great for you because…” rather than “I think this might work for you because…”  There is a huge difference between being approachable and being timid, and we want conversational, helpful input- without the wishy washy.

There is much to be said about the language we use with our customers, but overall the idea is to focus on positive phrasing and a problem solving attitude.  Consider your client’s perspective when answering questions (even if it’s the 100th such inquiry today).  Definitely don’t write in all caps.  Emojis should be used sparingly, since we are serious business persons, after all.

Your clients want results, and you’re [obviously] the pro to deliver them.  Just make sure your delivery comes across pro, too.


3. Don’t over-apologize


Of course, apologize when necessary.  As in, when you actually screw up.  If you constantly apologize for every little thing, from a misunderstanding that wasn’t your fault, to not answering an email the moment you received it, you risk looking like a doormat.  Also, you look a little guilty, not to mention awkward.

Save those apologies for when they’re truly needed.  Like when you’re so deathly ill you can’t crawl to the computer or get to the post office in time to meet a set deadline.  Or when tech malfunctions keep you from accessing important documents (because even the Cloud isn’t foolproof, right?).  There will be times when your client deserves- and likely expects- a sincere apology.  But over-apologizing can cause your clients to lose confidence in you, because it can start to sound hollow.

As a people-pleaser, holding back the sorries might be difficult for you (*raises hand*).  You  might want to save people from their problems.  Make sure their coffee has just the right amount of sugar, fold their napkin just so, wipe away any crumbs.  But if you’re caught up in fine-combing the less significant details, then you’re not wholeheartedly invested in your actual work.  Besides, it’s highly unlikely that every snafu that comes up is legitimately your fault in the first place.

There’s no point in apologizing solely for your tendency to take up space (or breathe!).  We all miss an email occasionally, mean to reply and forget, or need time to think a prospect through.  If you’re offering customers awesomeness 99% of the time, that 1% of oops will be covered.


Keep your eye on the prize!


Ok, that one’s just a bonus.

But seriously:

A few months from now, or even years from now, you’ll look back on your new biz owner days with pride.  And without flinching!  Earning an actual paycheck through your ingenuity and hard work is the coolest grown up feeling ever.  So is earning trust and respect from your clients.  After all, without them, you wouldn’t have a business!

We’re all scared to venture out of our safe spaces, but to brand yourself as the expert in your craft, it’s wholly necessary!  Your reputation is intermingled with every sale you make.  The key is being aware of how you portray yourself in your business and in your client interactions.

How do you ensure that your online “executive presence” and your brand are being represented in the absolute best light?  I’d love to know!